I recently read the Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman, an expert in usability engineering and cognitive science. The book is regarded as a bible of good design and is a classic that deserves to be read over and over again!
First published in 1988, and revised in 2013, the principles established within the book are as applicable today as they were 27 years ago. The reason for this is that it’s not so much a book on products as a book on people. The writer expresses lucidly how a new user will approach a product, how they make decisions based on design with how to proceed, and how they respond to feedback when decisions go wrong.
In recent years, the Design of Everyday Things has helped influence the various movements inspired by human-centered design, including the lean movement popular among start-ups, by making the user the focus of every stage of design.
However, there are still many design challenges! Norman highlights experiences you’ll have likely found in your own life. Keys and faucets with no directions on how to turn them or baffling doors that never seem to open the way you think they will. The human reaction is to blame yourself, but he cites these as examples of bad design – in the pursuit of pleasing aesthetics, designers forget to add basic signifiers on how to use their products.
For me, reading the book has been a revelation, offering new tools to critique designs that will leave you considering the design choices for everything from washing machines to door handles. For my own work, I’ve found myself evaluating the feedback mechanisms in our IMS; am I giving the user the information they need to discover the system’s features? There is a reason the book is a classic and a must-read for any designer.
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If you’re interested in what else the team has been reading, check out our most recent reading list.